Authors: Dannika Dark
Tags: #paranormal fantasy
I set my empty glass in the sink. “I didn’t know we could have human jobs. How come you don’t work for the Mageri?”
“Oh, I’m not a Mage,” he corrected. “I’m just your ordinary, red-blooded male.” He was right. When I took a minute to focus on his energy, I sensed it was weaker than a Mage. “I would
much like to hear how the two of
“Coincidence, I guess. Justus found me without a maker and volunteered to be my Ghuardian,” I said, tapping my bare foot on the floor.
He scooped up the remaining piece of enchilada, working his jaw slowly, with a satisfied moan. “Tell me more,” he said with a mouthful.
“I’m not sure what you want to hear. I live here and he educates me.”
When he finished the last bite, his tongue polished the prongs of his fork until it shined. He stared at a spot of sauce on his plate and touched it with the tip of his finger.
“Where’s your maker?”
“Six feet under.”
“Ah, that’s quite unusual for a Mage to die. How tragic for you.”
“I think you mean fortunate. Hold on,” I said. I could almost feel Simon having a hissy fit as my phone vibrated.
I sliced a piece of chocolate cake for my guest and set it on a clean, white dish.
“You’re a real tart, you know that? Don’t hang up on me again; it’s very rude,” Simon chided. “Are you all right?”
I smiled as I set the plate in front of Logan. His eyes widened.
“Don’t call me a tart, Simon.”
Logan’s brows stitched together as he swirled his finger across the icing. I spun on my heel and went back to the fridge. If I had to watch this man seducing a cake, I was going to have to excuse myself for a cold shower.
“Let me call you back. I’m a little busy at the moment.”
“Busy with Adam? Doing
I snorted. “I don’t know, but I have two containers of chocolate icing. Got any ideas?”
“When Novis finds out, he will punish Adam severely. Don’t underestimate the man; he
“I’m not making out with Adam, you idiot. You’re right, Novis probably revoked his privileges—and yes, I feel bad about it.”
“Did you bring home a date? Bloody hell—”
Logan’s finger brushed over mine when I handed it to him, and I shivered from the unexpected contact. His Adam’s apple rose and fell with every hard swallow, and when he was done, he pushed the glass across the counter with the tip of his finger. A thin milk mustache lined his upper lip, and instead of wiping it off, his tongue crept out and licked it from one end to the other.
His behavior rattled me and I turned around. “Call me later, Simon. I need to do some dishes and there’s a slice of cake with my name on it.”
hang up. Whoever is in the house with you, I can guarantee that Justus has no idea.”
“Have you even talked to him today?”
Logan tilted his chin up and pulled in a long, deep breath. I wondered if he was getting sick from the sweet cake on top of the spicy Mexican food.
“He’s sitting right next to me.”
Terror crept up my spine, and I knew I had done something I shouldn’t have: I let a stranger inside the house.
“Don’t say a word,” he ordered. “Stay delightful so he doesn’t grow suspicious. Hang up the phone, and excuse yourself. Go to Justus’s bedroom and lock the door behind you,” he said in a rushed voice. “You need time to get out, so don’t use the trick door in the hall. Use the one in the bedroom, and you know where he keeps all the car keys. Make up something—anything—just
get the hell out
My heart fired off in my chest like a semiautomatic weapon. I licked my dry lips, clearing my throat as I headed out of the room.
“Mr. Cross, there’s more cake on the counter if you would like another slice,” I suggested. “I need to find an address book. Simon, give me a minute to get that number and I’ll call you back.”
I slipped the phone in my pocket and strolled out of the room. What did this man want from me, a free meal?
“I’m not supposed to leave you alone.”
Logan brushed by me and pivoted around. I didn’t detect suspicion in his tone, and I had no right to throw my power into him without justification.
“Fifty feet of space between us will make little difference.” I moved around him. “Make yourself comfortable, I’ll just be a minute.”
I hurried into Justus’s room, but before I could close the door, a white sneaker poked through, stopping it.
“Now, why would you close the door on me?”
He tilted his head to one side, and his shoulder length hair appeared longer on one side. His manner was tranquil, but this man was about as innocuous as a grenade.
Luminous, golden eyes rose to meet mine for the first time. I held my breath and stepped back. His gaze was more than a warning—it was a weapon blinding me from rational thought. Everything tilted, as if reasoning had no place. He didn’t blink, and one word came to mind:
Thump. Thump. Thump. My heart raced. I couldn’t think.
Logan admired the silky texture of my hair between his fingers before he lifted a tendril to his nose and slowly inhaled.
“You don’t hide your fear very well, little raven.”
His words were soft, but his meaning was sharp.
“I’m not afraid,” I lied.
The phone vibrated and I reached around to switch it on when Logan’s voice snapped at me. “Let me through, I can easily push this door in and we both know it.”
To make his point, his sneaker squeaked on the floor, edging inside.
“Are you really a surgeon, Mr. Cross?” I leaned against the door with more effort.
. I do have a talent with sharp instruments.”
His fingers grazed my cheek, tickling my lashes. I felt for his aura—his energy—but I didn’t register anything that remotely felt like a Mage. It didn’t feel human, either.
“What are you?”
A smile touched his lips and that’s when I got an eyeful. Sharp, animalistic incisors ascended from his lower teeth. A light, spotted pattern covered his arms like a thin blanket, as ripples of color flashed across his skin like a mirage. My brow formed a hard line; this wasn’t in any of the books I read.
“Your Ghuardian has never spoken of the Chitah?”
“Like the animal?”
Insult played on his features. “No, but you should fear us both.” He drew in two quick breaths, like a big cat smelling his prey. “Emotions are a fragrance to our kind. Your scent changed after my second bite of cake.”
I refrained from any sudden movement as upper incisors elongated. They were thick, white, and pierced the veil of air that hung between us.
My eyes must have given away my intentions of running. He dropped his chin and a mane of hair fell across his face. I stared into the eyes of a hunter between those strands, and it reminded me of a trip I took to the zoo as a little girl. The big cats were on display behind a glass wall, giving the illusion they were in the room with us. Despite the fact that we were safe, I was too petrified to move—convinced that the wall didn’t exist.
“Wouldn’t try it, Mage. I can run
faster. Open the door.”
My skin crawled with each syllable, and the phone slipped from my pocket, clattering to the floor.
“Little bird, little bird,
let me in
.” His lips peeled back and I was transfixed on those sharp instruments.
“No,” I whispered.
Without warning, the door flew open and slammed against the wall. I staggered backwards, running into the edge of the bed. The tall man loomed in the doorway, cocking his head to the side, collecting me with his eyes like a curiosity.
“What do you want with me?”
“If I had a dollar for every time I heard those words. Don’t be coy; you know what I want.”
His skin changed again, but it flickered and was gone. The patterns were various sizes, and subtle shades of honey and sand.
“I don’t even know who you are; what bone do you have to pick with me?”
His tongue slicked around a sharp fang. “If I am here, then you
who wants you. He is the man behind the curtain, pulling all the strings.”
I couldn’t believe it. He was talking about the Mage who stole my light. Novis nicknamed him the benefactor, but I had a few other colorful names for him. Samil lent me over to a man who didn’t see me as a person, but a source of power after tasting my light and discovering I was a Unique. Regardless of their business dealings, he was not willing to meet Samil’s price, and my Creator put a few obstacles in place by presenting me to the Mageri; it gave him leverage with the bargaining.
Logan’s movement was so unexpected that my hair blew back from the rush of air. I didn’t think anyone could move faster than a Mage. We stood chin to chest. A rumble filled his throat with every breath against my temple. I hesitated, unsure of how to respond, but I knew one thing: I was afraid of him, so afraid that I couldn’t even summon my own energy.
He stepped back and retracted his fangs.
“What’s the matter, lose your appetite?” I dared.
Fear was starting to morph into something ugly, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut.
“My feathers don’t ruffle easily, Mage.
does my employer want you?”
“So he can use me.” The words hung in the air like dirty laundry, all ripe with humiliation. “Are you his minion for money, or debt?”
“I am no one’s lackey. Perhaps I simply enjoy it.”
“I call bullshit.”
He arched a brow. “You call
“No one works for free. You’re either a weak man who follows the leader, or the fool that owes a debt. Which is it?”
His cheeks puffed out as he sampled the air. “Your scent is altered. Are you provoking a Chitah?”
“So what if I am?”
He stepped forward. “You would challenge me rather than go to him? I could kill you, lickety-split.”
“Death is better than captivity.”
“Are you offering to be my prey?” He looked down at me and it became evident that no one challenged a Chitah.
“I’m no one’s prey,” I said with a sharp tongue. “Do you like to hunt? Well… let’s go.”
I widened my stance and he widened his eyes. I was ready to take on this man, whoever he was, without hesitation. I swallowed my fear and looked him square in the eye. Then, he blinked.
I flashed behind him and threw a punch into his lower back. He snarled and before he could turn, I yanked his long hair, keeping my distance. His back arched and he swung an arm out to grab me. Forced to let go, I leapt back.
Justus helped me identify my weaknesses in our training sessions. Men were physically stronger—that was an undeniable fact. He taught me to fight by keeping my distance. I was stubborn about it, and wanted to make bold moves like he did, but now I understood why he taught me to fight defensively.
When Logan turned around, tangles of hair obscured his face. He surged forward and I threw out my hands, shocking him with a burst of energy. He sailed through the air as if pulled by invisible strings, hitting the corner of the sofa before he slammed against the hard floor.
I tensed when he looked over his shoulder and sliced me apart with his gaze. I’d never thrown my power into another Breed before. My palms were warm, but my core light was cooler from the transference, and I shivered.
“What’s the matter? Never been knocked on your ass by a woman?”
Logan didn’t stand up, he flew at me so fast that I lost balance and fell flat on my back. The breath knocked out of my lungs and he caged me with his body. His fingers locked around my wrists like shackles. I tried to touch him, but he angled his arms and I couldn’t reach them.
I flinched and turned my head to the side, baring my throat to him. Submissive, yes, but maybe he would go straight for the jugular and end this game.
The ends of his hair tickled my forehead as he stared down at me. I braced myself when he lowered his face so close that I could smell mint on his breath. Logan rubbed his cheek against mine, and I stared at him in puzzlement.
He suddenly hopped to his feet, lifting me by the wrists.
“Show me where you lay.”
I gave him the middle finger with my over-the-shoulder glare. He took a deep breath and pushed me forward—wrists bound behind my back—until I stumbled across my bedroom.